Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole
*Nigeria has procured vaccines, deployed experts to contain another meningitis epidemic
*Country has reduced malaria burden from 42 to 27%, improved immunisation coverage by 12%
Prof. Isaac Adewole is the Minister of Health. Adewole in this exclusive interview with The Guardian unveils the Federal Government’s health plan for 2019 and what the ministry is doing to address major challenges faced by the sector especially poor access to affordable and quality care. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes. Excerpts:
What is the health plan for 2019? What does President Muhammadu Buhari plan to do for health if re-elected?
Some things have dramatically changed. We are going to see new innovations. We are going to see Mr. President flagging off the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHPF), which is unique. The BHPF is in the National Health Act (NHC) but the implementation is unique. The President actually signed the 2018 appropriation N55.1 billion for the BHPF. Minister of Finance has graciously approved 25 per cent of the money to kick-start the process.
But it has not been released?
No. It has been released to us. We have transferred it to the Central Bank account.
No. Not yesterday. It was released about a week ago.
But I didn’t know?
How would you know? You wont know?
But the latest information about 48 hours ago is that it has not been released?
It has been released, 25 per cent of the money.
But there is a differential. In this new 2019 appropriation I heard it is about N50.1 billion less than that of 2018?
No. It is still N55.1 billion. And what is also different in 2019 is that government has also approved N22.8 billion for vaccine production because we signed a commitment to GAVI (global vaccine alliance) that over the next ten years Nigeria will gradually increase the funding allocation to vaccine administration by 10 per cent every year so that in 2028 Nigeria will take full responsibility for immunization of our children. So GAVI extended the transition period, which is normally five years. But for the first time taking into consideration of Mr. President, and the strong performance of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and our agencies, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), GAVI has graciously approved the extension that transition over a ten-year period. So we have N22.8 billion in 2019 for vaccine and N55.1 billion for BHPF.
Is it for just procurement of vaccines or for the local manufacture that the country is planning?
No the local manufacture is a Public Private Initiative (PPI). They have not started so we cannot put money in 2019 budget for them.
What are we going to see in 2019 in terms of reviving the health sector?
What you are going to see in 2019 is that we will now move money directly from central bank to primary health care (PHC) facility. Each PHC will get money for commodity, maintenance and for human resources. This is the first time it has ever happened in this country.
How was it funded before?
Nothing. They were left alone. They were orphans. That was why they collapsed. What we have done is to say we knew what happened in the past. In the past under Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) and when Olikoye Ransome Kuti was the Minister of Health, PHC was revitalized across the country but there was no mechanism for keeping them alive. It was like you delivered a baby and you gave them the first food and there was nothing else to keep the baby going, and they collapsed. So two years ago we started with the concept of revitalizing the PHC. Although it is not our responsibility as the Federal Government (FG), it is the responsibility of the Local Government Area (LGA), but if don’t do it the health system will not take shape, people will rush to the teaching hospitals and everybody will complain, “We waited there for hours.” That is not where they were ought to go. So we are working in partnership with our partners, the state governmen